Right and Wrong ReformJefferson County residents who read the Standard Banner with even a passing level of interest may have taken notice of the ongoing discussion among those in county government about the need for reform of the Jefferson County Commission. One solution being promoted by Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri is that there should be both term limits and a reduction in the size of County Commission. Does this sound familiar?
It should be noted here that generally speaking, I like Palmieri and the way that he governs. He constantly demonstrates that he has the common sense and the political brains that some members of County Commission lack, and he has always been willing to stand up to Commission's nonsensical taxation and spending policy. He is unafraid to use the veto pen, but I am sure that it frustrates Mayor Palmieri when his often-justified vetoes are overridden, such as when he vetoed Commission's latest property tax increase to no avail.
Although Commission is in dire need of a real reforming shakeup, I do not believe that the solution to the problems of Jefferson County Government is to effectively disenfranchise people by decreasing their county legislative representation. Reducing the size of County Commission means that it will make it more expensive to run for Commission-and in Jefferson County, Commissioners don't make a salary, just a stipend (I believe it is $200 a month)-so that means that the ability to run may be restricted to all but a few. Perhaps more importantly, people will be less likely to know their leaders from seeing them in the community daily, and Commissioners will know the communities and neighborhoods they serve far less because they'll have to cover so many more people, and likely a larger geographic area.
These changes can't take place at all, however, unless Jefferson County drafts and passes a county charter. There could be some benefits to a charter for Jefferson County, provided the right provisions are in such a document. If, however, a charter government leads Jefferson County down the same road of corruption as our neighbor to the west, I am not certain that a charter is the kind of reform that Jefferson Countians would want.
If I could insert any provision into a county charter it would be that no property tax increase shall take effect that has been approved by County Commission unless that increase shall have been ratified by a free vote of the people. If the county wants more of our money and they have a good reason for taking it, let them make their case before the voters and campaign for it. Voters do pass tax increases, as Jefferson County voters passed a sales tax hike last August to retire school indebtedness. However, placing property tax increases before the voters would place those proposals under the kind of scrutiny that they most deserve, and no longer would County Commission be able to pass those proposals every time they take a notion.
No charter can become effective without the election of a Charter Commission to draft the document, and then the approval of the instrument by the people of Jefferson County in a referendum.
If Commission does indeed move to draft a charter at some point, I may seek a seat on the Charter Commission in order to help press the rights of taxpayers.
Labels: Local politics